Nigerians await presidential tribunal’s verdict with bated breath



Uba Group

After about four months of intense legal battle, the five-member panel of the Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja hearing the petitions filed by the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, and his Labour Party counterpart, Peter Obi, last Tuesday reserved judgment.

The presiding judge of the court, Justice Haruna Tsammani told the petitioners that a date for judgment would be communicated to them.

The court has until September 16 to deliver the judgment, going by the statutory constitutional provision that stipulates that election petitions must be heard and determined within 180 days from the day of filing.

While Obi filed his petition on March 20, Atiku filed his on March 21, both about three weeks after Tinubu was declared winner of the February 25 presidential poll.

The Independent National Electoral Commission had on March 1, declared the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu winner of the February 25 presidential election with 8,794,726 votes while Atiku and Obi reportedly scored 6,984,520 votes and 6,101,533 votes, respectively.

Atiku and Obi had vehemently rejected the results. They later approached the court with their petitions to challenge the declaration of Tinubu as the winner of the election.

The two petitioners urged the court to nullify President Tinubu’s victory on the grounds that INEC failed to “substantially comply with the provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act” in its conduct of the polls.

They both asked the court to either declare them winner of the election or order a rerun.


Since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, there have been several allegations of election malpractice and vote rigging. Only one election outcome has not been contested in court in the fourth republic.


On February 27, 1999, Nigerians took to the polls to elect a new civilian president that would take over from Abdulsalam Abubakar, the then military head of state.

The election saw Olusegun Obasanjo, the presidential aspirant of the PDP, contest against Olu Falae, the candidate who ran on the Alliance for Democracy and the All Peoples Party’s joint ticket.

At the end of the exercise, Obasanjo was declared winner. He was said to have polled a total 18,738,154 votes to defeat Falae who got 11,110,287.

In March of the same year, Falae filed a suit at the Appeal Court, challenging the then Ephraim Akpata-led INEC’s declaration of Obasanjo as winner of the poll. He also claimed the election was marred by fraud and bribery, and that Obasanjo was unfit to rule because he was once convicted for treason while Sani Abacha was Nigeria’s military head of state.

In the end, the court struck out his application based on technicalities.

While addressing a gathering in May 2022, Falae claimed that the election result was altered while he was asleep in the night.


“I didn’t lose. In fact, I won the election. The military felt safer in the hands of a fellow military man (Obasanjo) as their successor,” Falae said.

“The outcomes of Nigeria’s presidential elections since 1979 have nearly always ended in the courts for adjudication. The results declared by the election managers have always been affirmed by the courts”


The 2003 presidential election held on April 19 of the same year saw Olusegun Obasanjo, the incumbent president, contest against Muhammadu Buhari, the candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party.

At the end of the exercise, Obasanjo was said to have polled 24,456,140 votes while Buhari got 12,710,022 votes.

Dissatisfied with the outcome, Buhari challenged Obasanjo’s re-election at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja in the same year.

On December 20, 2004, and after a protracted legal tussle, the tribunal dismissed the petition Buhari filed. He again went to the Supreme Court, but on July 1, 2005, the apex court delivered a judgement that validated the Tribunal’s earlier ruling.


In April 2007, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua of the PDP won a highly controversial presidential election, polling 24,638,063 votes to defeat Muhammadu Buhari of the ANPP and Atiku Abubakar of the Action Congress of Nigeria.

Local and international observers said the election failed to meet international standards.

When Buhari and Atiku took the matter to the Supreme Court, Justice Idris Kutigi, after listening to the arguments of the lawyers representing both aspirants, reserved his judgement.

With this, Kutigi adjourned the proceeding without setting a specific date for the court’s final decision.

In November 2008, the Supreme Court eventually upheld the election of Yar’Adua into office as president.

At his inauguration, Yar’Adua admitted that there were lapses and a whole lot of irregularities in the election. He also promised to address the controversy. He subsequently set up an electoral reform committee to look into the matters raised during the poll that brought him to power.


In 2011, Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP was announced winner of the presidential election that was conducted in April of the same year. He polled 22,495,187 votes to defeat Muhammadu Buhari of the Congress for Progressive Change and Nuhu Ribadu of the ACN.

The result was again rejected by the losing parties, and in the end, a court case ensued with Buhari as the main plaintiff.

In an unanimous decision, however, the apex court, led by Justice Olufunmilayo Adekeye, held that Buhari failed to prove his allegation that INEC did not conduct the election according to the provisions of the law.

Consequently, the court dismissed the appeal and affirmed an earlier decision by the Court of Appeal which upheld the victory of Goodluck Jonathan.

In March 2015, and after many attempts at becoming Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari emerged winner of the presidential election conducted in March of the same year.

Contesting on the platform of the APC, a party formed in 2013, Buhari polled 15,424,921 votes to defeat Goodluck Jonathan, the incumbent president, who polled 12,853,162.

Before Attahiru Jega, the then INEC chairman, announced the final result, a remarkable incident happened.

President Jonathan, knowing Buhari would eventually be declared as winner by the commission, placed a phone call to the former military head of state to congratulate him.

This was the only time in the history of Nigeria’s fourth republic when election results were neither rejected nor challenged in court by a formidable aspirant.


In February 2019, Muhammadu Buhari was again re-elected into office as Nigeria’s president. He polled 15,191,847 votes to defeat Atiku Abubakar of the PDP who had 11,262,978 votes.

While reacting to the announcement of the incumbent as winner, Atiku rejected the results, and in the end, sought the help of an election tribunal.

In August 2019, the tribunal rejected Atiku’s bid to overturn the election outcome and upheld Buhari’s victory as president.

The tribunal also held that Atiku failed to sufficiently prove his allegations of electoral fraud sufficiently.

Atiku’s plea was again dismissed by a Supreme Court in October 2019 for a lack of merit.

Hence, many believe that the verdict for the February 25, 2023, presidential poll will not be an exception.

Indeed, even though the feeling of confidence for an impending victory, spurred by the historical evidence related to the previous verdicts of the tribunal, many have become addictive to the supporters of the president, they have, albeit, entered prayer mode, hoping, too, that the “unexpected” would not happen and that the tribunal would affirm the president’s victory,

We’re optimistic of victory at tribunal – PDP

However, stalwarts of the PDP have expressed optimism that the party will reclaim its victory at the tribunal, assuring Nigerians to exercise patience as it will wipe off all their tears occasioned by the policies initiated by the APC-led government.

The party stalwarts under the auspices of Forum of National Assembly contestants in the 2023 general elections in Kano State, led by its chairman, Ahmed Rufa’i Dagumawa, described the government policies as anti-people as it has inflicted suffering and hardship on the people.

Dagumawa who contested for the House of Representatives seat of Wudil/Garko Federal Constituency however called on Nigerians to be law abiding and await the court verdict.

According to him, “As democrats we are calling the attention of the members of our great party, PDP nationwide to be calm and become the good people who are abiding by the Nigerian rules and laws and to wait for the judgment. We are expecting a very good positive verdict that will enhance the dignity of the judicial system of this country and we have very high hope that the court will do every necessary thing to look at the Nigerian masses in totality because they are the heartbeat and the last hope of Nigerian masses.”

I see a rerun election but… — Primate Ayodele

The leader of INRI Evangelical Spiritual Church, Primate Elijah Ayodele, revealed that there would likely be a rerun of the 2023 presidential election but forces behind the election results will stand firmly against it.

The cleric made it known through his media aide, Osho Oluwatosin, that there are leakages in the judiciary which are not well packaged and will later expose the ruling party.

“As Nigerians await the tribunal judgment, there is no way to it; there are leakages in the tribunal as revealed by the Lord. The leakages are not well packaged and will expose the ruling party.

“The ruling party has also realised there are no two ways to do it. There are cabals monitoring this tribunal and they are very desperate,’’ he disclosed.

He noted that if the election tribunal wants to be fair, the best is to call for a rerun but forces behind the case will do anything to ensure the election remains as it is.

The religious leader asserted that the judiciary is supposed to raise the hope of Nigerians with a fair judgment but forces will seriously fight against the right judgment.

Tribunal verdict may throw Nigeria into turmoil – Bode George

A former national vice chairman of the PDP, Olabode George, also expressed fears that the nation could be thrown into turmoil if either the petitioners or respondents win the case.
George, a former military governor of old Ondo State, said he was worried about what would happen if the verdict of the tribunal swayed either to President Tinubu, the APC and INEC who are respondents in the matter or the petitioners, Peter Obi and Atiku Abubakar.

“We are in a situation where if the court favours ‘A’ there would be trouble, and if the court favours ‘B’, there would also be trouble. The way most of our elected leaders take life, it is as if there would be no tomorrow. May God forgive our transgressions and direct the minds of our political leaders in ensuring a good life to all our people in Nigeria,” he said.

Attorney and Professor of Practice in International Human Rights Law at the Fletcher School, Chidi Odinkalu, noted that “democracy may be about choices and decisions by citizens in theory. As practised in Nigeria, however, citizens are mostly spectators. In every election, Nigeria’s judges have the final votes.”

The heightened role of judges in elections, he further noted, is essentially a feature of the presidential system of government.

The outcomes of Nigeria’s presidential elections since 1979 have nearly always ended in the courts for adjudication. The results declared by the election managers have always been affirmed by the courts.

Yet, every piece of evidence, Odinkalu said, points to the likelihood that this will be no ordinary season.

“Nigeria’s judiciary has a massive trust deficit among the citizens. Many do not trust the judiciary to do right by Nigerians. Increasingly, Nigeria’s courts have become courts of technicality rather than courts of justice,” Odinkalu said.

Another attorney, Castro Ginigeme, noted that technical rules “are supposed to be a guide to justice not a tool to thwart justice. But in Nigeria, the latter seems to be the rule.
“I doubt if they would do the right thing.

“I want to be shocked. Even if the tribunal does the right thing, the Supreme Court could reverse it. The corruption in the judiciary is shocking. It is unbelievable. There is a lot of corruption there. The Supreme Court has no credibility. They are all corrupt,” Ginigeme argued.

Election petitions, Odinkalu further added, “have become a preoccupation of judges in Nigeria and around Africa and a defining process in public perception of the courts. In the past, they provided moments of high forensic and judicial drama.

“Increasingly, however, they have become performative rituals for sanctifying electoral burglary and celebrating judicial capture. The beneficiaries are the burglars and the judges.”

A building contractor in Abuja, Jubilee Ogwoja is of the opinion that “Nigerians would be happy if the court removes Tinubu as president. I was listening to a radio station yesterday and everyone who called in except one person said they did not vote for Tinubu. This is an illegal government and I hope the court removes him.”

Tinubu’s economic policies since his assumption as president has been broadly hailed as rational but universally condemned for its devastating impact on Nigerians.

Tinubu had, immediately after replacing his predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari, abolished the fuel subsidy regime, a decision that instantly triggered a 300 percent increase in the pump price of petrol, a strategic commodity that influences pricing and cost in other sectors of the economy.

His unification of the foreign exchange rates has seen the local currency fall sharply down the abyss.

Tinubu might have endeared himself to the economic elite, but to the silent majority of Nigerians hindered by his economic policies, he is as bad as his predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari.

“The problem is not to hit the ground running, it is about running with sense. This tax collector is about to deepen our misery index without building the economy to allow us to pay the taxes,” an engineer in Jos, the Plateau State capital, George Kiyitwe said.

Recently, the controversial national chairman of the Labour Party, Julius Abure, charged party members to prepare for a possible rerun of the presidential elections.

“Nigeria’s judiciary has a massive trust deficit among the citizens. Many do not trust the judiciary to do right by Nigerians. Increasingly, Nigeria’s courts have become courts of technicality rather than courts of justice”

He said he had been informed that the APC government was also getting set for a rerun.

“Those in government are already planning for rerun and this is one of the supports we will be canvasing from you. We should also be getting prepared because since all those in government are already preparing for rerun we too should not be taken unawares,” Abure said.

The problem with a rerun, Ginigeme posited “is to give somebody who lost a race a second bite at the apple. If you have undeniable evidence that someone lost and someone won, then you do not need a rerun. A rerun is a denial of due victory on one hand and giving an advantage to the loser by giving him a second bite at the apple on the other hand.

“So, who is going to manage the elections? Yakubu and his INEC?” he queried.

Like most other reports by international observers, the European Union Election Observer Mission to Nigeria during the 2023 general elections criticised INEC over the body’s mismanagement and conduct of the elections.

It said the election lacked transparency, was not inclusive, and fell short of benchmarks and standards the commission set for itself, eroding gains made over time in the nation’s democratic process.

“I would not trust INEC under Mahmood Yakubu to organise an election in his family not to talk of organising a rerun for Nigeria,” a dentist in Abuja, Segun Olupitan declared.

“It is unlikely that a change in the leadership of the country driven by a court judgment will lead to anarchy. It is also unlikely that a continuation of President Tinubu’s presidency would lead to violence. It might only lead to coalesced and continuous resentment against a government many regard as illegal,” an observer said.

Tinubu says his election most credible

Meanwhile, President Tinubu, on Thursday, said he believed strongly that the election that brought him into office was the most credible in the country’s political history.

Tinubu stated this at a meeting with members of his governing APC in Abuja to officially ratify former Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, as the National Chairman of the party.

The APC National Executive Council, at its meeting, rubbished the election report by the European Union monitoring team.

APC said an organisation, whose identity and address it did not know, had resorted to campaign of calumny and incitement of Nigerians against the party and government, forcing the party to pass a vote of confidence in the leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Tinubu said the ruling party got the trophy by winning the election, saying the reward for hard work is more work.

He stated, “The party has a responsibility to promote unity, stability and love among ourselves. And we have to fulfill your dreams and the dreams of our founding fathers.

“To be sure that Nigeria remains the focal point of our domestic and foreign policies. You are the drivers of the party, when we have all other passengers, the drivers and co-passenger must not fall asleep and take a break working. Party loyalty becomes very important.

“Yes, we are facing challenges in the court, but I think this is the most credible election in Nigeria. So, we must congratulate ourselves. As a democrat, those who cannot accept the results of a free and fair election do not deserve the joy of victory.”